Italian Good Living | Montelio: the welcome that begins with the story

Montelio: the welcome that begins with the story

The visit to Montelio (in Codevilla, one of the historic municipalities of Oltrepò Pavese) was primarily a human experience, but this did not detract from the viticultural and wine making values of this company. We had a great time and we were really happy with Montelio and this, without a shadow of a doubt, was thanks to Giovanna Brazzola, a volcanic person who held our attention with the history of her company for over two hours. Two hours, however, that flew.

And of course, it’s not easy to be concise when you have a 200-year-old history to share. But even our surroundings were appropriate for the telling of the story that took us on a journey that touched on some of the most important historical phases in Italy. Undoubtedly, Giovanna’s cultural background was invaluable in ensuring that the storytelling of her company was both believable and authoritative. But she managed to do it like those history teachers that we all would like to have had at school; Giovanna managed to immerse us in the history of the land that existed even before her company.

And she did so in a light-hearted way, by asking us questions to understand our level of historical knowledge. Thus, it started with Frederick Barbarossa, who played a key role in the historical evolution of the Oltrepò Pavese. In fact, in 1164 during Barbarossa’s third descent into Italy, he granted the loyal city of Pavia (which had supported him in the fight against Milan and Tortona) full jurisdiction over 90 villages in the Oltrepò. Giovanna also reminded us that Napoleon was another great historical figure, confiscating the monastic properties and then forcing the wealthiest families to buy them back.

And Montelio fits precisely into this historical context when this area still belonged to France in 1792. In that year, Angelo Domenico Mazza, ancestor of the current owners, bought a beautiful property from France that Napoleon had stolen from the clergy.

Thanks to Giovanna’s words, it’s easy to get a good understanding of Montelio’s history and when you visit its spaces (in particular, the atmospheric “infernot”, the underground room where the historic vintages are now kept that was part of the ancient monastery and used as an icebox in centuries past) it seems as though the voices of that past can still be heard.

But Montelio, thanks to the Brazzola sisters and Giovanna’s son, Edoardo, conveys the past well while at the same time it is a viable company in the present thanks also to a decidedly interesting wine production that testifies better than words can to the vocation of a land like Oltrepò Pavese. It was enough for me to walk among the vineyards, towards the beautiful and original hexagonal-shaped hut where Domenico Mazza himself conducted wine tastings at the end of the 18th century. And since the hill was often sunny, he called it Montelio (from the Greek “hillside of the sun”). A place with great wine tourism appeal and perfectly in tune with the hospitality philosophy of the house of Montelio, it’s no coincidence that it was, in 1994, one of the first to join the Lombardy Wine Tourism Movement.

Without a doubt, we’ll return to Montelio soon.

photographs by © Nicolò Pitteri